Iconic Movie Hero Ethics: The Humiliation Of Indiana Jones

One upon a time, Hollywood showed respect to its greatest movie heroes. They deserved it, after all. We never had to see what became of Rick Blaine as he battled the Nazis. We never had to watch Scarlet chase Rhett. Nobody made as watch the plucky Hickory High School basketball team try to hold on to its title the next year after its miracle triumph. Hollywood got greedy (greedier), though, as imaginations ran out and audiences looked elsewhere for their entertainment. And thus the sublime ending of “Rocky” (“There ain’t gonna be no rematch!” “Don’t want one!”) was eroded and superseded by endless inferior sequels. “Star Wars” ended with a jubilant celebration of victory over the Empire and the characters happy, safe, and young, but studio finances dictated that it all had to be diluted with inferior and derivative prequels and sequels, with audiences being tortured by aging husks of Leia, Luke and Han Solo, instead of allowing them to be preserved in our memories as immortal, like legends should.

Now it’s Indiana Jones’ turn. Spielberg and Lucas already set up the perfect farewell for Indy in the third of the original trilogy, flawed as it was. We saw him ride off with his father and Marcus Brody into the sunset after drinking from the Holy Grail, which should have conferred eternal youth. Perfect!

They couldn’t let it go, though, or the studio couldn’t, or Spielberg’s alimony, or something. So we had to watch, many years later, an over-the-hill Indy in a jumping-the-shark fourth film that George Lucas signaled would stretch out the franchise ad infinitum by symbolically passing The Hat on to Indiana’s newly discovered son, the then young and promising Shia LaBeouf.

Unfortunately, as the old knight said in the previous installment,

LaBoeuf proved to be nuts, unstable and unable to handle the assignment. Desperate to somehow squeeze every drop of money out of the Indiana Jones saga, Disney is now wrapping up an Indiana Jones 5, starring an 80-year-old Harrison Ford. Ugh. I’m so disappointed; I would have though Ford, a famous contrarian, would have had the integrity to let sleeping Indys lie, especially after the last debacle. But no.

Now Disney is said to be flirting with an ending of the fifth film that has Indy’s successor be a woman (Indie, I guess) played by British actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge. (Why she isn’t black, I don’t know: Disney must be in turmoil). Another option is killing off Ford, like in “Star Wars.” No no no, you don’t do that either.

Indiana Jones, like Sherlock Holmes, Rocky Balboa, Dirty Harry and Robin Hood, is supposed to live forever.

Show some damn respect.

21 thoughts on “Iconic Movie Hero Ethics: The Humiliation Of Indiana Jones

  1. Which is worse, killing off the character, as with Han Solo, or digitally inserting the character after the death of the actor, as with Princess Leia?

    Hollywood truly is totally bereft of new ideas.

    • What’s worse? Stuffing someone in a fridge during a nuclear explosion, launching them hundreds of feet into the air in it, make us watch as it crashes down full force, only for them to walk away with their life, if not their dignity. The only reason “flying the fridge” didn’t replace “jumping the shark” was that no one watched Crystal Skull, so no one knows it happened.

  2. So many movies that maybe should have had sequels but never had, leaving the fans wanting more.

    – The Neverending Story
    – The Matrix
    – Home Alone
    – The aforementioned Star Wars (there were only three)
    – The Godfather (nice prequel with Godfather II, but I really wanted to know what happens to Michael)
    – Tron

    That is my headcanon and you can’t convince me otherwise.

    • There were also only 2 Alien movies, 2 Terminator movies, 2 Mummy movies starring Brandon Frasier, and only one of so many Disney films such as Cinderella, Aladdin, Lady and the Tramp, The Little Mermaid, the Lion King, Emperor’s New Groove…

  3. I’m surprised Hollywood hasn’t forgotten how to do heroes altogether. The heroic ideal is somewhat passe at this point. It’s all about villains and victims at this point, and if someone rises up to strike back at the bad guy, that person can’t be a traditional hero, but must instead be of color, or female, or disabled. Hollywood’s mission at this point is not primarily to tell good stories, but rather to uplift the woke ideology and all that goes with it. I think writers like George R.R. Martin have helped things along with their works in which there either are no heroes or anyone who tries to be even vaguely like one meets an unpleasant fate. As I pointed out elsewhere, this whole idea is starting to leach into Rings of Power, where the writers want to lavish attention on Xena/Galadriel, Bronwyn, and Nori, and only grudgingly let the traditional heroes like Elendil, Isildur, and to some degree Elrond (although he is sapped of much of his heroism) take center stage. They barely even let the Stranger (who is probably either Saruman or one of the Blue Wizards) talk. The only reason the traditional heroes haven’t fallen by the wayside, I think, is because they can’t, they have fates that have already been determined.

    But this isn’t enough. Now Hollywood has to go back and try to erase the traditional heroes who are already out there, presumably so that the young white men won’t grow up seeing any heroes who look like them, and will defer to the wise women and the more virtuous people of color.

    The zombie franchise question is only part of it. Rocky could have easily stopped with the second film, showing his return and eventual triumph, and definitely could have skipped the third with the fight against the obnoxious Clubber Lang, although the Cold War fourth film had some good stuff in it, including a really great training montage and the epic Soviet National anthem scene. We could have done without the fifth, that took the happy ending and dashed it, which in my opinion is always a bad idea, and the sixth and last was the last throw of the dice to save some kind of decent ending. In fact, when Rocky waves goodbye to Adrian at the end of the 6th movie, he’s supposed to be waving goodbye to the audience also. Finis. But they couldn’t even end it then, and now they have to come out with Creed, where black Apollo Creed’s son takes center stage, that the next generation of fans forget the Italian stallion was ever there.

    The same is true of the Star Wars franchise, which not only moves a black man, a woman, and an ambiguously brown pilot played by a Guatemalan actor to the forefront, but trashes the first generation of heroes, making a special effort to trash Luke, the original primary hero. That scene at the end of The Force Awakens when he reveals himself to Rey and she offers him his old lightsaber looks for all the world like it is setting up the return of the epic hero to take up his old weapon and put things right, a somewhat hoary, but uplifting trope. In the first few minutes of the next movie they trash that by having Luke throw his old weapon away and say he will not help, before spending inordinate amounts of time dwelling on angst and regret. Even when Luke does show up to put things right, he is revealed to be simply a telekinetic projection, which has come at the expense of his life. Heroic? Hardly, and maybe deliberately so, so that the next generation of fans will not look to the first generation of heroes who are all white.

    The whole Indiana Jones epic probably should have ended with Last Crusade. In fact, that final scene, where Indy and his dad and their friends go riding off into the sunset is supposed to bring to mind the Four Horsemen of the apocalypse and a definitive ending. They should have quit while they were ahead, because Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was a disaster that accomplished very little other than undercutting the second Narnian movie and probably leading to the premature demise of that franchise (which I hear is also now in the hands of Amazon, and a woke reboot is no doubt in the works). There were many other possible plots they could have done something with over the years, and many more missions they could have sent Indy on, possibly picking up the Cold War flavor of the original Jonny Quest. Whatever they did they should have stopped long before now. Just for the record, that last movie was 14 years ago. Harrison Ford doing it at 65ish was enough of a stretch. At 80 is ridiculous, unless they are going to harken back to his drinking from The Grail and achieving some form of immortality. The idea of killing him off and replacing him with a woman as the principal character is essentially trashing the genre. The whole concept of the original series was based on the 1920s and 30s pulp serials, where western, frequently skeptical, heroes battled the villains of this world and possibly also the world beyond this world. It was never intended as a “girl power” series. Here’s a news flash for Hollywood, although I doubt it comes as a news flash for anyone here: girls will read books and watch shows with male protagonists, but boys will not read books and watch shows with female protagonists. That’s just the way it is, and it’s the way it’s probably always going to be. Make this a female oriented series, and it’s dead in the water.

    Sometimes it’s okay just to entertain the audience, without worrying about wokeifying them, and sometimes it’s okay for the good guy to also be a white guy. Just like we sometimes look the other way on the repulsive politics of artists or musicians to appreciate their art, it’s also all right and maybe even desirable to look the other way on the politics of entertainment made in a different time when people thought differently. The alternative is to simply erase the past and crochet the proverbial world the color of goose shit.

  4. Coincidentally, yesterday I watched Raiders of the Lost Ark while on a cross-Pacific flight returning to the States. What a great movie! While Ford looked quite young – it was over 4 decades ago – the movie had so much going for it: good guys were good guys, baddies were baddies, and dames were dames. Cinematic perfection!
    And there must have been over a hundred on-demand non-first-run movies (many classics) to choose from on that flight.

  5. I do think I remember Ford saying, after the abortion that was Kingdom of the Crystal Skull that he was not opposed to a fifth Indiana Jones movie. So maybe his brains have already been addled, or he just loves playing the great hero, or he doesn’t care if the name gets washed down the toilet. I don’t know.

    I wish that storytellers would leave well enough alone, even if so many fans clamor for more when a story is over. So seldom does a sequel do the original any justice. It takes a huge amount of cleverness to take an original story and do something new with it each time so that it doesn’t become trite, cliche, or (in my opinion) the worst story of all, which is a story that never would have happened if one of the characters wasn’t so shallow that his narcissism drives the nearly non-existent plot.

    Sequels succeed if they can somehow capture something new while remaining true to the original, or if the first story was written as essentially a prologue to the sequel. The Terminator movies, if I understand correctly, were written with the idea of T2: Judgement Day, but needed the first movie to set all the groundwork. The third movie is obviously an afterthought, because it then trashed the entire premise of the first two movies: there is not fate but the fate we make.

    Some stories are so amazing that we do wish we could recapture the magic of experiencing the story once again. I understand that. I just wish we didn’t have to wade through so much garbage to find that magic once again, and I wish developers recognized that throwing out a second-rate version of the original is only going to harm the original.

    That being said, I would love a Zootopia sequel, because hey, who doesn’t love a buddy cop story? I’m willing to entertain all 4 Lethal Weapon movies as canon. All three Rush Hour movies, as well.

  6. Nitpick: I don’t think the Holy Grail was meant to provide eternal youth; at least not from just one drink. Remember that even though the knight was looking good for his age, he collapsed when he raised his sword against Indy. Also recall him saying the Grail had to stay put: “That is the penalty, and the price of immortality.” I think the Grail only cured what ailed you at the moment. If you wanted to live forever, you’d have to drink from it on a regular basis to stave off your body’s normal wear and tear.

    Also, while it doesn’t look like it’s caught on, I’ve seen proposals to replace “jumping the shark” with “nuking the fridge” to describe a media franchise past its prime.

    • 1. I never thought that the old knight had been drinking from the Grail, though why wouldn’t he?
      2. As bad as it was, “The Crystal Skull” was still a lot better than post-shark “Happy Days.” Funnier too.

    • You are correct. I saw “The Last Crusade” in theaters multiple times. There was a seal on the floor. The Knight told Indy, when he picked the right cup, “You have chosen wisely. But the Grail cannot pass beyond the great seal. That is the boundary, and the price of immortality.”

      Thus, when Elsa took the cup and began moving over the seal, Indy warned her what the knight had said and that’s when the rumbling started that caused the floor to collapse.

      So, as long as Indy, Marcus, Sallah, Jones, Sr, and Elsa stayed inside the grail’s habitat, they could drink of it and live forever – I absolutely believe that’s what the knight did. If taken out, it wouldn’t work at all. Like the Ark of the Covenant, the Nazis would have ended up with a worthless artifact if Julian Glover had not chosen poorly because they simply didn’t respect the rules of the game.

  7. They can’t leave well enough alone.

    Back when “Last Crusade” came out, Harrison Ford indicated that it was likely the last film because it had been five years since the last one and, if five more years elapsed before a fourth one, he would be in his 50s which he felt was too old to be running around doing this stuff.

    In fact, it was almost 20 years later that the fourth film came out and Ford was much older. Does he really want those multi-million dollar paychecks? Does he donate huge amounts to charity or something? Can he not get any other movie roles (is that why he’s now going to appear on television?)? Does he have nothing else to occupy his time?

  8. The totally “woke” Hollywood is engaged in producing remakes of the classics for the purpose of inserting black/gay/non binary actors in previously White roles. There is virtually no imagination left, only wokeness.

    • Kids entertainment is even worse. Check out what they did with the reboot of Ann Martin’s “Babysitters’ Club.” The wokism is almost shocking. (my niece is 16 and, up till recently, followed it).

  9. I am a frim believer that any genre of literature, including scree writing has a beginning, middle and end. The final word on the screen ought to be “FINE” ( excuse my French). It should neve be ETC!

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